Reading Your Way to a Better, More Successful Life

Bill Abbate

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What is the value of reading books?

After finishing school, I did not read another book for many years. Finally, around my mid-thirties, I started reading again. By 40, I was reading several books per year. Before long, I was reading a book each week, which I continued doing for years. To this day, I read mostly non-fiction books about personal development, business, leadership, biographies, psychology, and philosophy while rarely reading fiction. My interest and curiosity about personal development and other such subjects remain to this day, even though I am retired.

Looking back, I realize how many years I wasted when I was younger. Yet, the value added to my life reading many books for the past 25+ years simply cannot be overstated.

Without question, I attribute the success I enjoyed in my career to reading books. Reading truly lets you stand on the shoulders of giants. I know of no better way to learn and grow than to read the words of others.

Think about it. Great people of the past and the present have taken time to carefully craft their thoughts into a book that you can pick up for a mere pittance! How fortunate are we? Early in the last century, books became affordable and accessible to almost everyone. During the past 100 years, books became the great equalizer to building a life of success and significance, regardless of social status, color, or gender. At no time in history has so much wisdom and knowledge been accessible to so many.

The connection between reading books and success

It is a well-established fact that many of the most successful people in the world read a great deal. In fact, I recently read that most executives read 4 to 5 books each month. Sounds about right.

Take Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American industrialist and one of the wealthiest people to ever live. Did you know he believed so strongly in books helping people he became the largest individual investor of public libraries in American history? Before his death in 1919, the funding he provided created some 2,800 libraries around the world!

“Reading is an act of civilization; it’s one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities.” Ben Okri

Going back another hundred or so years, the British burned the capitol in 1814, wiping out the Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a founding father of our nation, provided his personal library of nearly 6500 books to replace the entire 3000 book library that was lost in the fire, effectively doubling its size! Books were critical for practically all learning in his day and remain so today.

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.” Rene Descartes

In more recent times, when the most successful people in the world are asked about their keys to success, you will find reading books at or near the top of their lists. Warren Buffett reads 500 pages a day. Considering the average business book is around 200 to 250 pages, that is about two books a day! Bill Gates reads a book each week, and Mark Cuban reads for 3 hours each day! You will find similar facts about practically every successful leader or business person for the past century.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Joseph Addison

What can you gain from reading books?

It goes without saying there is much to be gained in life by reading more books more often. A few of the benefits you can receive from reading books include:

  • Building analytical thinking skills
  • Improving memory
  • Enlarging vocabulary
  • Increasing knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence
  • Improving focus and concentration
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Increasing empathy
  • Instilling greater confidence
  • Preventing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lengthening lifespan
  • Improving writing skills
  • Enhancing communication skills
  • Improving career and job performance

Phew, that is quite a list, isn’t it! Gaining any one of these benefits is great, but how about gaining most or all of them? That’s what book readers get! It makes you wonder why everyone isn’t a reader, but as the old saying goes, “readers are leaders,” and many have no desire to lead. Another saying that comes to mind is “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” and its correlation, “you can lead a person to books, but you can’t make them think.” Okay, maybe I just made that up… But you get the point.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” Oscar Wilde

Final words

With the well-known benefits of reading books, it is a wonder everyone doesn’t take advantage of it. I guess we’ll have to chalk it up to another one of those mysteries of the human species.

“The book you don’t read won’t help.” Jim Rohn

If I could leave one piece of advice for anyone that wants to get ahead in the world, to have a better life filled with more success and achievement, it would be this – read books. Read as many of the most relevant books as you can and watch your career soar.

The bottom line is you know you can afford it, but will you take the time to do it? For your own sake and goodwill, I hope you do!

Please take the advice of a famous “doctor” from the past to heart:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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